The Third Element of Today’s Privacy Problem


It’s people.  We’ve talked about the NSA and governments generally.  We’ve talked about Google and Facebook and other corporate actors.  Finally now, we have to consider people.  Not their actions in the conduct of their work – however much we might dislike it (or not) – it’s their personal actions.

For example, we have a problem with government workers snooping in places they are aren’t supposed to be.   We also have a problem with employees in the private sector playing with information collected by the government.

Now let’s talk about people in the tech industry – people who work for the businesses that collect and hold lots of personal information.

There is a not-really-so-much-of-a-secret in the tech industry.  There are too many people in the tech industry with, shall we say, issues.  Often this problem manifests itself in the form of misogyny – and it goes right up to the executive ranks.   It’s not the only form of the problem though.

Another form of the problem is double standards.  Some people believe it’s OK to do things that they believe governments and corporations should not do.  In an earlier post, we discussed this in the context of using other people’s computers (without consent) to do something they think is cool.  The “greater good” it was called:

Are people willing to sacrifice their privacy for the greater good? And, if so, does this count?

Obviously this story came out before the NSA thing became a thing.

How can smart people be so stupid?  Maybe all the coddling they get from their employers gets in the way of adapting to the adult world – a world where actions and consequences have a relationship.  And perhaps, as noted in this Wired article:

When people with likeminded beliefs congregate together, they collectively move to a more extreme position.

Whatever the reason, we should be concerned about the amount information and the computational tools accessible by people who might not have the kind of judgment we’d like them to have.  As noted in an earlier post, one wonders what kind of screening such employees go through before they get access to those tools and that information. 

This is a gap in privacy regulation that must be considered.  What screening should be required before we give people access to personal information? 

So what is going on out there that we don’t know about?  I’m sure there is more than one good story to tell.

I wonder if Mr. Snowden would have told us if he worked at Google.

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